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Right to Rent

Last summer we wrote an article on the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) letter to the Home Secretary challenging the decision to roll out the Right to Rent (RtR) scheme to Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The JCWI is now proceeding with the threat to judicially review the Home Secretary’s decision. Our previous post can be read here.

The RtR scheme places a positive obligation on landlords to ensure that they do not rent to people who do not have the right to rent. They must carry out immigration checks on tenants or occupiers prior to entering into any tenancy agreement to protect themselves from the possibility of prosecution.

At present the RtR scheme only applies to England however, the government has stated that it plans to roll it out to Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The JCWI has now submitted papers to Judicially Review the entire RtR scheme on the basis that it discriminates against foreign nationals.

The fear of prosecution has made landlords reluctant to rent to any person that does not have a UK or EU passport. That means that even British Citizens who do not have UK passports are reportedly having problems renting because of the RtR scheme and the landlord’s fear of prosecution.

Further research carried out by the JCWI between December 2014 and July 2015 found:

  • 42% of landlords said the RtR requirements have made them less likely to consider someone who does not have a British Passport;
  • 27% are reluctant to engage with those with foreign accents or names;
  • Checks were also not undertaken uniformly for all tenants but are instead directed at individuals who appear ‘foreign’;
  • 50% of respondents who had been refused a tenancy felt that discrimination was a factor in the landlord’s decision; and
  • 65% of landlords are much less likely to consider tenants who cannot provide documents immediately.

These results are supported by other institutions who have also carried out their own research.

It is also important to note that the Home Office has said that they are unable to publish a database of acceptable documents for the purposes of the RtR scheme because there are simply too many such documents. The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has also been reviewing the RtR scheme however this review “will not examine any unintended consequences of Right to Rent, for example discrimination against would-be tenants, increased homelessness, or displacement.”

All of this seems to point to a problem with the RtR scheme and certainly suggests that many people are being discriminated against. Therefore, the decision to Judicially Review the roll out seems inevitable. We will update this post when we have further information. In the meantime, in England at least the RtR checks should continue for the time-being.


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